Penguins notebook: Olli Maatta gets lesson on playoffs' intensity


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NHL clip files are overstuffed with testimonials of players who had all sorts of advice thrown at them and yet did not fully comprehend how different the postseason can be until they came out of their first playoff game.

And a lot of them have been a lot older than Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta.

Maatta, 19, got his first taste of the playoffs Wednesday night in Game 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He found the playoffs to be as advertised and feels comfortable about Game 2 tonight.

"Pretty much what I expected," Maatta said Friday after the Penguins practiced at Consol Energy Center. "It's more physical. Not as many calls as there are in the regular season, so there's definitely more contact, more hits. The tempo is faster, too."

Maatta got his first playoff point, an assist on a Jussi Jokinen goal. He played 17 minutes, 11 seconds and was tied for the team lead with four shots.

He admitted, though, that his game mirrored that of his team -- a sluggish start before things evened out in a 4-3 Penguins win.

"My first period, I got into the game a little slow," Maatta said. "But, when the game went on, it kind of slowed down for me. You've just got to get used to it. There was probably a little nervousness in the first period, but, when we got into the game, I felt fine."

Bylsma: Fleury passes test

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had a solid, though hardly flawless, performance in Game 1, stopping 21 of 24 shots.

He was beaten on an uncontested chance from directly in front of the net, a close-range power-play chance and a short-handed breakaway, then turned aside everything thrown at him in the final 39-plus minutes.

Coach Dan Bylsma said he thinks it was good that Fleury faced and overcame some adversity.

"We didn't want the game to go perfectly," he said. "If it was a perfect game, that wouldn't have answered any of the questions [about the Penguins], and I feel that way about Marc-Andre.

"We didn't want him to have a 55-save shutout performance, and that was going to answer all the questions. There was a situation in the game where he was in a tough spot, gives up the short-handed goal and it's 3-1, where we needed a response in the game from him, and we got it.

"He made three or four excellent saves after that. ... He had to respond in that game, and he did.

"That was just one game and one response from our team, and from Marc. That question is still going to be there pretty much right through every game, and every win, we have in the playoffs."

Umberger due back

Columbus forward R.J. Umberger, the Plum native who missed Game 1 because of an unspecified injury, is scheduled to be in the lineup tonight.

Umberger, who will turn 32 May 3, had 18 goals and 16 assists in 74 regular-season appearances. He plays on both special teams and isn't shy about playing the body.

"He's been one of the team's leaders in physical play, in terms of hits," Bylsma said.

"Their net presence is strong from six or seven of their forwards, and he's one of those guys that drives to the net, so he's always a presence there."

Umberger practiced Friday in Columbus with Artem Anisimov and Blake Comeau. Umberger missed the last four games of the regular season because of his injury, but he also was benched at times late in the regular season.

He confirmed Bylsma's hunch that part of his assignment will be to man the front of the Penguins net.

"I'm just anxious to get in there, battle, be gritty, get in front of the net, try to make Fleury's job a little hectic out there," he said.

Umberger might not be the only Blue Jackets forward returning from injury.

Earlier this week, Nick Foligno was ruled out for Game 2, but his timetable might be moved up after a strong practice Friday.

"I was watching him. I like the way that he looks," Columbus coach Todd Richards said, although he cautioned that Foligno still needed final medical clearance.

Quick round trip

The Blue Jackets returned to Pittsburgh Friday afternoon. They took advantage of having two days between Games 1 and 2 to go home to Columbus.

"It was just being at home," Richards said of the decision. "Instead of spending days off in a [Pittsburgh] hotel trying to find out where you're going to go eat, there's something about the comfort of being at home.

"Another reason is it's a short trip. Once we get on the plane, it's 25 minutes to a half hour. I totally believe it's the right decision."

Tip-ins

Center Marcel Goc (injured left foot/ankle) had a lengthy skating session with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar before practice. ... Richards, on his playoff-inexperienced team: "I thought the guys were focused and ready [in Game 1]. It should help them. Our feet are wet. We know what to expect come [today]."

Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. Dave Molinari: dwmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.


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